NASA's Cassini spacecraft is currently on the last leg of its "ring-grazing orbits" around Saturn, and was able to take images of the planet's rings. The spacecraft has sent back an intriguing image, though - Mimas, Saturn's moon, looks like it's about to crash into the planet's rings.
Cassini Has Been Delivering Informative Insights About Saturn
Ever since Cassini's launch in 1997, the spacecraft had been delivering helpful insights about Saturn, along with some stunning images. Recently, an image that it sent back shows Mimas getting too close to Saturn's rings, and if you look closely at the image, you will feel that the moon is about to crash.
NASA said that there is no need to worry because the image is just an optical illusion. NASA made it clear that Mimas is actually 28,000 miles (45,000 kilometers) away from the rings. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 23, 2016 from a distance of approximately 114,000 miles (183,000 kilometers) from Mimas with an angle of 29 degrees.
Gravity Links The Moon And The Rings Together
The space team said that there is a strong connection between the icy moon and Saturn's rings because of gravity. Mimas' gravitation pull causes Saturn's wings to form waves, which we can see in the image.
Meanwhile, Cassini's 20 ring-grazing orbits, each about seven days long, are actually just a preamble to the spacecraft's final chapter - 22 final orbits beginning April. During this time, the spacecraft will come within about 1,012 miles of the planet's cloud tops, and will also shoot through the gap between the rings and the planet, a move that will allow scientists to calculate the mass of both structures separately. After which, Cassini will end its mission by plunging into the planet's thick atmosphere, sending back data until the signal is finally lost.